Sports

NCAA: How Aaron Harrison Became Kentucky’s Favorite Son

Aaron Harrison is going to declare for the NBA draft once he and the rest of the University of Kentucky Wildcats are finished with March Madness. They’ll be heading into the NCAA Championship game on the back of a pair of shots made by, you guessed it, Aaron Harrison. That video up top was his dagger-three pointer against Michigan, the shot that put the Wildcats into the Final Four for the first time since 2012, which saw them come away with a victory and their entire starting five wind up drafted by the NBA. Harrison made another go-ahead three last night against Wisconsin that will return the Wildcats to a championship game.

The Kentucky Wildcats are not exactly an NCAA basketball program. At least, not under their current coach, John Calipari. The UK basketball squad is more of a one-year NBA finishing school. The National Basketball Association prohibits anyone who is not at least 19 years old and one year removed from graduating high school from joining the NBA, so many basketball prospects will pose as ‘student-athletes’ for one academic year, or one unpaid academic year.

The Harrison twins — Aaron and Andrew, also at Kentucky — were known commodities before the season started. Along with power forward Julius Randle, they made up three-fifths of a squad that grabbed a No. 1 power ranking in the preseason before struggling early and winding up with an eighth seed in the tournament. Now they’re headed to the NCAA Championship because of the “less exciting” Harrison sibling.

All the way back in 2011, the Harrison twins were on the draft radar. They were early contributors to the buzz around the noisiest draft class in recent memory. Back when they were both 16 in 2011, DraftExpress had some nice things to say about Aaron. “The slightly lesser acclaimed of the highly touted twins, Aaron Harrison is more of a wing player than his brother, but is an itriguing prospect in his own right. Standing around 6’5″ with an incredibly well-developed frame for a 16-year-old, Harrison impresses more with his maturity and skill level than with overwhelming explosiveness.” This is the point where we point out that Aaron Harrison was considered the the not-quite-as-good-twin all the way until — well, until those two buzzer beaters (the Wisconsin one from Sunday is right above this.)

For a league and a cottage industry (Harrison’s first game-winner made his coaches and Kentucky’s AD almost $330,000 in bonuses) that thrives on ‘the moment,’ Aaron Harrison now has a pair of iconic game winners to his name. While a poor tournament showing isn’t going to hurt you in the draft, a great one will definitely catapult your stock skyward. Despite the fact that he’s been loitering in the bottom half of the first round in most of the mocks for most of the year, if Harrison could somehow go three-for-three in game winning buzzer beaters to finish up the tournament, he might be the greatest one-and-done NCAA star since Carmelo Anthony. For now, he’ll just have to settle for being the most legendary Wildcat since Anthony Davis.